Few stories have been translated so often and in so many languages as the classical fairy tales. As such they are a true challenge for translation studies. This article wants to instigate a methodology for investigating fairy tales in translation. The method is essentially a comparative textual analysis, inspired by translation studies, literary theory, linguistic criticism and discourse analysis. It can be applied to the synchronic research of fairy tale translations within a restricted period as well as to the diachronic research of translations of one or more fairy tales over a longer period of time. A step-by-step model is presented which makes it possible to classify and analyze changes in translations as well as adaptations. In order to bridge the gap between content and linguistic levels, a linguistic analysis is linked to focal points, grouped under categories from literary studies. The examples are taken from six recent Dutch translations of ‘Sleeping beauty’, published between 1995 and 2007. In the final part of this study, a scheme is offered for the interpretation of the changes the analysis brought to light, taking into account individual as well as social factors and based on the concepts of norms, systems and functions. By presenting a structured method of analysis, this article hopes to give new impulses to the study of fairy tales in translation.